Ford Wants You Out of Your Car?

Kimbrely Matsoukas reports on presentation by Ford Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering Susan Cischke.

Published: 18-Jan-2011

One of the most surprising moments during Ford’s Driving Green technology events at the NAIAS last week came from Susan Cischke, their group Vice President of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. One of the main points she made during her hour long discussion of Ford’s sustainability efforts was the growing populations in “mega cities” around the world and how that necessitates that we move away from the old model of “one car for every person.” She also mentioned the need for more investment in public transportation systems. Say what? A car company executive thinks we need to make it more convenient for people to not use their cars? After all, wasn’t it Henry Ford whose vision was to “open highways for all mankind”?

Not surprisingly, she was asked about this during the Q&A session after her talk. Her response was music to a tree-hugger’s ears: it just isn’t feasible for the billions of people in the rapidly developing countries of China , India , and Brazil to have the same car culture as those of us living in the United States . Aside from the massive environmental impacts associated with so many more cars on the road, the price of oil from the expected exponential increase in demand will make car ownership much more expensive than it is today. Even electric cars don’t solve the problem of congestion and parking space associated with driving in a large city. Anyone who drive in New York City can attest to that.

It’s nice to hear a behemoth manufacturer like Ford acknowledge reality instead of clinging to the idea that everyone needs to own a car. It’s also smart. Look no further than print media for an example of an industry that failed to keep up with the ever changing times. Ford sees the future- one with more people living in crowded cities and high gas prices. Rather than double down on the antiquated idea that everyone should own a car, they are planning for a future that looks quite different than the last 100 years in the automotive industry. With any luck, companies like Ford will find a way to thrive in a future with more public transportation, less dependence on fossil fuels and a healthier planet.

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